ALL EYES ON DOHA AS INTRA-AFGHAN TALKS SET TO BEGIN
The Office of National Security Council (ONSC) on Thursday confirmed the Afghan government had nearly completed the release of Taliban prisoners on the group's list, except for a half dozen prisoners about whom international partners have reservations.
The government received commandos held hostage by the Taliban, said Javid Faisal, the spokesman for the National Security Council (NSC), after the government released the bulk of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners.
Sources close to the peace talks said that the travel plans of the delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have been delayed until Friday.
While the hopes for the start of intra-Afghan talks in Doha gather fresh momentum, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with Al Jazeera TV accused India of trying to disrupt peace in Afghanistan.
“This is a miracle that it is actually happening. We pray that this happens, we realize that there are spoilers. I am afraid there is certainly one country--India--which does not want it to happen,” said Imran Khan.
The Afghan government has released 4,993 Taliban based on the list provided by the Taliban. The remaining seven are those with whom partner nations have taken issue. Both France and Australia publicly asked the Afghan government to not release prisoners that had killed citizens from their respective nations.
“The peace negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan represents the Afghan nation and the government in the peace talks with the aim of creating a progressive, independent and unified Afghanistan in which the rights of all citizens of Afghanistan are protected,” said Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the govt peace negotiating team.
The date of the talks:
“There is a possibility that the delegation departs tomorrow or day after tomorrow, but it will go in the near future,” said Haji Din Mohammad, the deputy of the High Council of National Reconciliation.
“We are busy coordinating the arrangements for the talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban group that are expected to begin soon,” said Najia Anwari, a spokeswoman for the State Ministry on Peace Affairs.
A source close to the Taliban said that the seven hardcore Taliban prisoners about whom Australia and France have expressed reservations will be shifted to Qatar where they will be put under monitoring.
“The agenda of the talks and the redlines for talks are not clear for the republic team (govt negotiating team), but the [Taliban] team has established a new team and they plan to pursue clear agendas and programs,” said Tamim Asey, Founder & Executive Chairman at the Institute of War and Peace Studies (IWPS).
Sources close to the Taliban said that the Taliban team led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has arrived in Qatar after undergoing COVID-19 tests.
“There is an opportunity available and it must not be vein,” said Mawlavi Qalamuddin, a former member of the Taliban.
There are unconfirmed reports that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will attend the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan talks.